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Maple Leafs’ Top 25 Under 25: Kerby Rychel is no. 11

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Kerby Rychel is a promising young forward with some question marks beside his name.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Newly acquired from Columbus, Kerby Rychel makes his debut at no. 11 on our list.

The Ranking

Rychel slots in at no. 11 after securing 200 out of a total of 350 points. He finished just four points up on Andreas Johnson and six points back of no. 10 on our list.

Achariya had him ranked the lowest at no. 18. Here's her explanation for she had him so low:

There's always a juggle between measuring ceiling and measuring NHL readiness, and my voting on Rychel was based upon how he's done in an NHL role so far. He's had limited time in the NHL, and in this time, he's produced little so far. That doesn't mean that his upside isn't excellent, it just means that I wonder whether he needs more AHL development time before he can find his game.

Fulemin was really impressed by Rychel, ranking him at 10, and it's not hard to see why:

What struck me most about Kirby was his ability to ingest the opposition and expel them as star-shaped projectiles.  A lot of people are going to say he hasn't done it at an NHL level yet, but I think talent like his will translate really nicely to the big leagues.  Also he can sort of fly.

Voter Scott Wheeler 67 Sound Birky Arvind Elseldo Emily Achariya JP Nikota Species Burtch Katya Fulemin Mike B Chris H
Rank 9 13 16 12 9 10 18 12 11 14 12 10 9 9

The Player

A former mid-first-round draft pick, Rychel was acquired in a trade that sent Scott Harrington and a conditional 5th round pick to Columbus. Unhappy with his playing situation (to the point where his father and his agent got into a heated fight with Jarmo Kekalainen over his usage), Rychel requested a trade last offseason. That relationship between player and team was pretty bad for a number of years and, at this year's draft, Toronto decided to scoop him up in exchange for a player displaced on their depth chart by new acquisitions and a conditional late round pick.

In junior, Rychel put up great numbers on the Spitfires, a team with few other scoring threats. A power forward, Rychel has great hands and skill, and in his draft year, he scored at a similar rate to Max Domi and Hunter Shinkaruk (although Rychel was on the older end of his draft class). Scouts noticed, though, that his production dropped when he wasn't playing with Alex Khokhlachev. The other big knock on his game that year was his skating, which has improved a lot in recent years.

Rychel was traded midway through his D+1 season to Guelph, a much better team. He scored at a slightly better clip and really turned it on for their Memorial Cup run, where he posted 1.625 PPG.

He played in the AHL in his D+2 year (because of his '94 birthday) and performed very well for a player in his first professional season. His numbers weren't eye popping (for reference, Connor Brown scored at a 0.8 PPG clip as a rookie to Rychel's 0.65 PPG) but they were very solid, especially when you consider that he was second on the team in PPG. That year, Marko Dano, who is the same age as Rychel, scored far less in the AHL yet got 35 games with the big club.

Fast forward to last season, coming off a successful rookie campaign and a very good training camp. Despite this, he started the year with Springfield. He bounced between the AHL to the NHL all year. Looking at his history, you get the impression that he never really had a shot to succeed at the NHL level, at least not in the same way that Dano or some of Columbus' other first round picks in recent years did. In his 32 NHL games last season, he averaged less than 10 minutes of ice time. He didn't have the best results, either. Although he ran into some bad shooting luck, his possession numbers were dreadful (-2.01 relCF% at evens) in a small sample size.

In the AHL playoffs, Rychel was unimpressive, at best. Lake Erie won the Calder Cup but Rychel was nowhere to be found. Scouts in his draft year observed that he would sometimes check out of games mentally. I wonder if that's still an issue.

At any rate, it seems like Rychel could really blossom with the change of scenery. He joins a team that is very invested in the youth movement going forward. For a player who never really clicked with his coaches in his old organization, that could be an important factor going forward. That said, he's going to have to fight for ice time at both the NHL and AHL levels--Toronto has much more forward depth than Columbus so nothing will be handed to him.

At the end of the day, Rychel is a player who has shown NHL upside, although his rocky history with Columbus makes it hard to gauge his ceiling. Is he destined to become a bottom six player or can he regain his scoring touch from junior and contribute up the lineup?

After weighing the positives and the concerns, Rychel debuts at no. 11 on our list. I see him in a tier with other players who look like they could become regular NHL contributors but haven't proven it at the highest level just yet.

Also, he has a pretty fierce looking cat and a video game name so I'm rooting for him.